Review: ‘Electra Woman and Dyna Girl’ 2016 (low-rent big-hearted heroic hilarity)

More proof reboots CAN work: having love and respect the original material while putting your own unique spin on it.

In a world bereft of supervillains since the forgotten Shadow War, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart) are a pair of non-powered costumed heroes taking down small-town thugs while financially scraping by. When a social media video goes a million-views viral featuring the super ladies disarming a bad guy — literally — they are lured to Los Angeles, California by Creative Masked Management (CMM) to makeover the heroes, win them commercial endorsements, and take a cut of their profits. While Electra Woman has stars in her eyes, doubtful Dyna Girl finds herself relegated to sidekick instead of partner and feeling left behind. Will these two former super friends get their acts together in time to stop a new supervillainess bent on world domination? Of course they will…and look damn good doing it.

Saturday mornings from the late 1960s to the late 1970s was a showcase for low-budget, live-action ‘tween entertainment. Sid and Marty Krofft produced a lot of such shows — “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Lidsville,” “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” “Wonderbug,” and “Dr. Shrinker” to name a few — and forty years later, many of these properties are being rebooted for new audiences. Enter Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig — dubbed by many as the Amy Poehler and Tina Fey of YouTube — with an idea to reboot “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.” Arguably one of the Krofft’s most well-known series, it had cross appeal to adults (read: men) due to the presence of Deidre Hall (who even in 2016 has still been playing Dr. Marlena Evans in “Days of Our Lives” since 1973) and Judy Strangis (who famously quit camera work due to Dyna Girl stalkers…thanks, trolls). While not the first time Electra Woman and Dyna Girl has been made over, this may be the first time they’ve made it work, striking the best balance of superhero spoof shenanigans, big-hearted doomed ambition, and situational organic humor. What’s not to love? Okay, fine: it’s another superhero reboot, but don’t hold that against it.

Fans of the show will find plenty of memories herein: the ElectraBase, the ElectraComms, tech expert Frank Heflin (originally played by character actor Norman Alden), and the CrimeScope computer…all elements that felt derived from the 1966 “Batman” series with a gender swap and added disco flare (hey, it was the late 70s, okay?) The 2016 reboot is less over-the-top, grounding the characters in a modern augmented-reality social-media world and giving our heroes a real partnership rather than an assumed mentor/sidekick Batman/Robin relationship (and also used as a plot point, too). Frank the Techie has been updated into a twenty-something engineering prodigy who could pass for the lovechild of Rain Man and Egon Spengler; reimagining approved! And they even managed to pull one of their classic supervillains out of mothballs for this: welcome back, Empress of Evil! Think of this as Kick-Ass in a world where some people do actually have superpowers, both heroes and villains alike.

Happily not over-produced to big-budget summer movie standards, this new Electra Woman and Dyna Girl is a slick production up to and maybe in excess of your standard WB superhero show, even in the special effects department. The humor is situational and character-driven, mostly lent to conflicts of personality quirks and daily frustrations when you’re in a super-hurry. The language isn’t for kids and neither are the gratuitous deaths and dismemberment (some played for jokes and some for drama), so viewer discretion is advised, yada-yada-yada. While fans have much to love here as grown-ups fondly remembering childhood, new viewers already familiar with Helbig and Hart have a new tightly plotted reason to love their off-screen friendship applied to an on-screen partnership. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ll see of this dynamic duo.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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